My First Day

“When you don’t know a place, it can be scary … But what you know can make a difference, turn the unfamiliar into family. I get to trace the edges of my path.”

First published in Vietnamese in 2017, the English translation of My First Day was released in 2021. My First Day is headlined by An, a Vietnamese child living on the edges of the Mekong Delta. It is his first time rowing alone on the river on his open boat. It’s monsoon season and the river is swollen. An remains unfazed as he travels past flooded villages and the various animals that live in the waters and the riverbanks. An sees how the Mekong is teeming with life. He eventually reaches his destination: it turns out that it is the first day of school. An greets his friends, who have also traveled on the Mekong.

An’s journey gives us a glimpse of Vietnamese river culture, particularly the home-to-school commute undertaken by many schoolchildren who live along one of Asia’s largest rivers. While the picturebook is ostensibly about the first day of school, its figurative descriptions of the environment via the use of schoolroom imagery—“the chatter of a classroom full of animals,” a sky that is a “crayon box full of colors”—communicates how a trip to school also offers lessons on biodiversity and symbiosis. The stunning illustrations of landscapes, flora, and fauna will remind readers of the complexities of riverine ecosystems. The book concludes with information about the Mekong.

©2022 ClimateLit (Anupa Roy)

Teaching Materials: https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/find-your-book/my-first-day

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Publisher: Make Me a World, 2021

Pages: 40

Lexile Score: AD680L

ISBN: 978-0-593-30626-0

Audience: Ages 4-7

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Biodiversity, Flood, Land Care, Nature, Nature Immersion, River Culture, Riverine Ecosystems, Symbiosis, Water

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